Moving from one location to another or visiting places as a means of leisure or curiosity to see a popular site is no doubt an exciting experience. A huge deal of effort, time and preparation goes into visiting a place even more when it is a great distance from your current location. Words like travel and tour are used interchangeably to describe the art of visiting other locations near or far. A person who travels is referred to as a traveler while those who go on tours are generally called tourists in major contexts. Though these words can sometimes be interchangeable that is, used to represent one another, there are distinct differences between the two.
According to the English dictionary provided in the dictionary, both words are defined as verbs as well as nouns depending on their usage or context. As of now, travel was defined to mean journeying and the act of travelling meaning to journey especially to distant places. In the same dictionary.com, the noun form of tour was defined as a lengthy journey that includes visits to a number of places in sequence especially with an organized group led by a guide. As verbs, the term travel means to go from one place or point to another while to tour means travelling from place to place. It is also defined as the act of travelling through a place.
From their definitions, they seem related, but touring is a more specific form of travelling. A specific thing or thing done when a person travels while traveling at its broadest is any movement from point A to B no matter how it is done. This means that you can travel to Spain and spend a week at the beach or spend the same week in a hire car driving round cities sightseeing. Either way, you have traveled to Spain even though the activities might be different and unrelated. Unlike to travel which is mere movement between locations, touring involves well-defined routes, organized trips as well as specific reasons for the trip.
With these closely related by different words, the terms tourist and traveler are even more different. Travelers tend to stay at a location for a long period of time for exploration while tourists visit a location for a shorter period. As a traveler, you are looking to explore places that are not commonly visited or seen, this is different for a tourist as he only visits popular areas of attraction visited by other tourists. A traveler tends to arrive at his destination without plans rather he prefers to make plans on the go but for tourists, there is already a well-thought-out and scheduled itinerary.
Another important difference between those who go on tours and those who just travel is evident in the items they carry along for the trip. For a typical trip, only essentials like food, clothes and toiletries are packed, but a typical tourist carries along items like cameras or other electronic device meant for entertainment. On a tour, you communicate with large groups of tourists but hardly with the locals in the area whereas for travels there is the desire to communicate with the locals, interact, spend time together and learn their culture.
Generally, the major difference between travel and tour lies in the purpose of the journey as well as preparations. Although a tour can be likened to travel, a tour includes specific location defined routes as well as planned activities while travelling is mere movement from one point to another by any means: foot, cars, buses, airplanes and so on.